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John Legend at the Apollo review

Behind the glitzy stage show, Lynda Moyo finds a legendary raw talent

Written by . Published on March 16th 2009.

John Legend at the Apollo review

When your name is John Stephens and you've set yourself up for stardom, you best think of a memorable big surname to accompany your big dream, fast. Playing at the Apollo on Friday, the man formally known as John Stephens wanted us all to remember his, by displaying it on the stage backdrop. 'LEGEND'. That's his name by the way. Nothing to do with his ego. Not at all.

Doubt began to set in however, when John Legend, the American soul singer, appeared wearing shades, a dapper suit and proceeded to walk past the piano; the instrument which has been integral to his success, and instead, took to the mic directly. Was this a polished and manufactured Justin Timberlake as oppose to the expected enthusiastic, young Stevie Wonder we’d all come to see?

Starting with his up-tempo tunes such as 'Used to love you' from his debut album Get Lifted and 'Heaven' from the follow-up, Once Again, Legend clearly wanted to home in on his more recent commercial success. As he threw his shades onto the piano, the startling comparison to the underground nature of his previous Manchester gigs, when he was quite simply a musician, became apparent. Welcome, the slicker and glitizer John Legend: the entertainer.

Next, sat at the piano, where he's best suited, Legend said the words all loyal fans had been waiting to hear: “love songs”. And off he went, wading through a sea of emotional lyrics, beautiful ballads, ivories tinkling throughout. His distinctly gravelly voice is the sound spine tingles are born out of. One female fan found it to all be a bit much for her spine as she was selected to join John for 'Slow Dance' on stage. Frantically jumping up and down she was beside herself as the seductive singer told us “There's nothing wrong with a slow dance” before taking her into his arms and giving her a rose.

But despite the displays of affection and romance, there is only one woman John is singing to and that's his model girlfriend, Christine Tiegen, who appeared as backdrop in a Bond Girl animation scene for the song 'Stereo'. Tiegen and Legend are often spotted out and about together and his relationship is reflected in the musical direction of his latest album 'Evolver'. Behind every successful man is a great woman, and in John's case a beautiful model with an eye for style and no time for cheating. Previous albums focused on infidelity and polygamy whilst 'Evolver' shows John's grown up, contentful and happy side.

Deep down, John Legend clearly knows the importance of being known for much more than image and lifestyle. Paying homage to iconic leaders, he dedicated the song 'If you're out there' to American President Barack Obama as well as other influential figures such as Ghandi and Abraham Lincoln. And despite the showy start, his humble nature became clear as he promoted his personal quest to make life better for the people who live under the poverty line through his Show Me Campaign.

The gig went full circle, but in reverse as we saw the new John Legend showman revert back to John Stephens, the piano man. Finishing with his biggest hit to date, 'Ordinary People', Legend reappeared on stage minus the band in a tuxedo and with only his beloved piano for company. The crowds joined him in the chorus, singing: “We're just ordinary people, we don't know which way to go, we're just ordinary people, maybe we should take it slow.” If John sticks to being ordinary and focuses on his extraordinary talents, he may very well be able to live up to his name.

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Shell-boMarch 16th 2009.

John Legend was AMAZING! Best concert i've been to in ages! So laid back and yet thrilling! I wish I was the girl on stage, she was going nuts!!!!

John S. LockeMarch 16th 2009.

I had a nightmare at the show...We were in the standing area of the stalls which was packed!..Lots of folk in the audience around us seemed to be very pished! A guy next to me was totally out of it and almost caused a riot by treading on peoples feet and generally being a dick...we were constantly jostled and herded by the stressed and seemingly perturbed security staff and to top it off I had two women standing behind me who talked loudly and continually through almost half his set. When I turned around and asked them to please be quiet as I couldn't hear Jogn sing as they were rabbiting on so loudly, they took umbrage and began to take the mickey out of me for complaining - luckily I was with my charming but defdinitely not to be messed with Mrs. who turned around and gave them her 'carry on and I will hurt you look'...they then shut up and I tried to enjoy the show....unfortunately I feel that Mr. Legend has only two or three great songs and the rest of his material is a little bland and obvious. I think I may have enjoyed it more if we had not been in the pit from hell with some utter numptys but I'm not sure - saying that 'Ordinary People' was and still is one of the finest love songs ever.

JillMarch 16th 2009.

Went with my fiance and friends on Friday, thought John Legend was brilliant! his voice is amazing and the show fantastic. We all enjoyed it sooooo much.

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